Safety Do’s & Don’ts
With the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects nearing the midpoint to completion, Fort Myers Beach residents and visitors are acclimating themselves to the new dedicated five-foot bike lanes on each side of the roadway from just south of the Red Coconut RV Park that will eventually reach the south end of the island. Due to the narrow right-of-way in the one-mile segment from the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge to Lovers Lane, however, construction crews combined bicycle and vehicular uses into one, in travel lanes called “Sharrows.”
To help provide the safest possible Fort Myers Beach biking experience, avid bicyclist Dan Moser, a founding member of BikeWalkLee and current chair of the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinating Committee, shared his thoughts on the Fort Myers Beach bicycle lanes to date, along with bicycle safety “Do’s & Don’ts!”
“When you bicycle, you bike with traffic,” stressed Dan, “as opposed to walkers who face traffic. By biking with traffic, you lower the odds of intersection accidents, where motorists only tend to look to their left in the direction of oncoming cars. Lights are a must, no matter where you are in Lee County, unless you are on private property. As for Fort Myers Beach, the overall design is really good, and the idea that the center lane should be a stormwater drain to leave space along both edges of Estero Boulevard for bike lanes, is in my opinion, an exceptional concept.”
That makes Dan happy because, “even though this is a Lee County project, the Town since its 1995 inception wanted the best possible bike lanes and they held out until they got them, as biking is especially important for a beach community, so I congratulate them.”
Sharrow The Road!
Dan has biked the “sharrow lanes” and emphasized, “Bicyclists are entitled to as much of that lane as a car, vehicles should not be passing you, and no auto should be any closer to you than three feet. For a competent bicyclist, using the sharrow is best, but for children and maybe those up in age, the sidewalk is a better option. If you are on a road with a bike lane, however, use the bike lane as much as possible.”
Many people on Fort Myers Beach, however, “prefer to bike on the wide sidewalks rather than the bike lanes or sharrows,” Dan noted. “Some communities prohibit bicycles on sidewalks, but generally not in Southwest Florida. I wish bicyclists only rode on the sidewalks with traffic, because when motorists are at a sidestreet, not only is it tough to see a bicyclist to begin with, but the natural inclination of drivers is to just look to the left, and not to scan right for a bicyclist who may be moving at a pretty fast clip. You do not see these crashes in the news because they are rarely fatal, but they happen every day!”
Bicyclists on the sidewalk are “the second-class citizens, to pedestrians, and must act accordingly,” stressed Dan. “This means you must be very considerate! Your bike needs a warning device to alert pedestrians you are coming from behind to pass. It is the responsibility of bicyclists to pass people on sidewalks safety, even if you must hop off and walk around them.”
Small Price to Pay
Dan implores everyone to wear a bicycle helmet, “even though the only ones who must legally do so are children age 15 and under. It is even more important for adults to wear helmets than kids, because they generally bike faster, fall further before they hit the ground, and will do so with greater force. The most tragically-famous example locally is the death of the meteorologist Jim Reif, who roughly 5 years ago hit his head on the curb and passed away. Bicycle helmets cost anywhere from $10 to $300 so that should not be an issue to owning one, as compared to the medical costs you can incur, that is a small price to pay.”
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws and rules of the road as any vehicle driver, added Dan, “with fines and violations, and that includes a DUI, though you do not lose any points on your driver’s license. If you receive a violation, that can lead to the suspension of your driver’s Iicense, so don’t just ignore it because it happened on your bike, because, it will be on record. The one thing bikes can do that cars cannot is when in stopped or slow traffic, you can legally pass by the traffic (on the right) if there is enough space, but keep an eye out that no one is too far over, hits you with their sideview mirror, or suddenly makes a turn.”
Dan concluded with a warning: “Remember when you drive a car, you are a threat to take someone’s life. If a car going 30 miles-per-hour hits a bicyclist, the biker only has a 50/50 chance of survival; at 40 mph, that drops to roughly 15% and those who live will most likely endure a life-long, life-changing physical condition, so please keep that in mind, especially on Fort Myers Beach where cars, bicycles and pedestrians are so close together in large numbers and tight conditions.
“Take your time and be considerate of each other, leaving enough space and obeying the speed limits, as biking on Fort Myers Beach can be a great way to travel in a timely and safe manner!”